Bottoms Up: Ch-ch-changes

Over the past year or so, my gender has been on a wild ride. Coming out as nonbinary over the past year or so wasn’t so much that I decided womanhood didn’t fit me as much as it was I didn’t want to have to fit into anything anymore. And as my gender expression changes, I’ve found that who I’m attracted to changes, too.

If you’d asked me this time last year who my ideal partner was, I would’ve thought of a very specific type: a tall butch leather daddy at least three years older than me, and just a little bit mean on the outside but a total softy on the inside. I knew what I wanted because I knew how I’d fit into a relationship with that type of person — I’d be the smaller, femme, submissive partner. It was the role I’d always played in relationships, and I liked it. It was also the only way that I ever saw D/s relationships done. I didn’t know it could be any other way.

And then, what femme meant to me started to change. My contribution to Cecelia’s femme roundtable was one of the first times I sat down and gathered my thoughts about what femme meant to me, and while I still whole-heartedly align with it as an identity I’ve stopped trying to be someone else’s idea of it. A full face of makeup and Louboutins is not the only way.

As my relationship with femme started to change (and as I explored what being nonbinary meant to me), so did who I was attracted to. I played with this beautiful high-femme woman who tied me up and was super rough with me, and who called me a good boi the whole time. I was overwhelmed. Remembering it, I am overwhelmed. She fell outside of the type of person I’m typically attracted to, but in that moment, she was the most beautiful, perfect human I’d ever seen. For the first time, I thought to myself, “I could love a femme top more than I could love anyone ever in my entire life.” Endorphins will do that to you.

But even after I came down from the high of an amazing playtime, I realized that I’d limited my attraction to people who looked like tops that I’d previously been attracted to. Even though I was playing with gender in this weird way and throwing away my gender boundaries and roles left and right, I still had a very static idea about who could be a top, or at least who could be my top. And when I let go of those constraints, just like when I let go of the ways my gender identity was constraining me, I found joy and freedom.

Part of my queerness is its lack of boundaries. There is no right way to be queer or trans. And there is no right way for me to be a bottom or for someone else to be a top. Instead of guiding myself towards some ideal that someone else set out for me that worked, but wasn’t everything I wanted, I’m trying to guide myself towards what feels sexy and good. Sometimes, yeah, that’s my go-to type because mean butches in boots who push me around (consensually) will always make me weak in the knees. But it also means not censoring myself when I find myself attracted to a femme, or to someone who plays with gender in a variety of different ways. Things change all the time, and instead of freaking out about the changes I’m experiencing with myself and who I’m attracted to, I’m relishing in the freedom of it all.

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Ari is a 20-something artist and educator. They are a mom to two cats, they love domesticity, ritual, and porch time. They have studied, loved, and learned in CT, Greensboro, NC, and ATX.

Ari has written 330 articles for us.


  1. Super interesting, as ever. I’ve also come to describe myself as non-binary in the past year and have also experienced a similar shift in who I find attractive, but it’s gone the other way for me. I’m bi and a switch, and I used to only ever consider topping really masculine men and bottoming for really high femme women. While I don’t think I’m ever going to be into being topped by a man, I’m now much more into butch women tops.

    I think what you’ve said about how the role you imagine yourself in relates to gender identity really gets to the heart of this. I used to feel like any desires I had to be/feel masculine/androgynous were all down to internalised misogyny and I suppose I felt guilty about that. So in my head, whoever was topping, whether that was me or someone else, had to be powerfully feminine. Now I don’t feel that guilt, it’s not defining who I “allow” myself to be attracted to.

    • also though, thank you for pointing out the narrow demographic of toppiness that we see represented. It’s something that bugs me too.

  2. I used to struggle a lot with my transmasculine identity combined with being a sub. Media seems to portray femme top and masculine bottom as extra taboo compared to the rest of BDSM (at least from what I’ve seen). When I was younger back in highschool I thought being a sub invalidated my gender identity, and was proof I wasn’t a “real man.” Thank you for CrashPad and the anime fandom for correcting me on that. xD

  3. “Part of my queerness is its lack of boundaries” <<< exactly why queerness is so cool!!

    boundaries shmoundaries

    • I just read the comments now, but that is exactly the line that resonated with me too. Hence my comment on wanting that line written on my bedroom walls.

  4. This is great – thank you for sharing! I’ve also had very specific ideas of what my tops could / should look like, and recently have been questioning why I think femme-presenting folk aren’t as dominant as masc ones… and I think it’s that same idea of *I* want to be the cute submissive femme one, and thanks to the gender binary I’ve internalized that there can only be one of each. Something for me to work on deconstructing!

  5. Part of my queerness is its lack of boundaries. Part of my queerness is its lack of boundaries. Part of my queerness is its lack of boundaries. Part of my queerness is its lack of boundaries. Part of my queerness is its lack of boundaries. Part of my queerness is its lack of boundaries.

    I just want this written over and over again until it fills my bedroom walls. Yes. Thank you, Alaina.

  6. Reading this I feel like you’re my mirror twin with realizations on a different time line.
    Reverse in who we are; how we got there, but the same mental destination.

    Part of my queerness my inability to bind myself to single binary way of being in gender and who I’m attracted to. For a long time I existed outside of things and I cannot make myself fit into things. It just makes me stick out, shows how I do not fit.
    I can only exist.

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